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Gandalf with Shadowfax

The Two Towers
by yo go re

It's true what they say: you just can't keep a good wizard down.

Though thought lost by all in his cataclysmic duel with the great Balrog, Gandalf did not indeed pass permanently out of Middle-earth. Returning beyond hope to muster the forces of light, the wizard shed his grey mantle and took up the title of Gandalf the White. From the stables of Rohan he took also the great stallion Shadowfax. Wild in spirit and temper, Shadowfax was considered untamable by all save the wizard, who rode bareback, clutching the silvery hair of the mount's mane. No other horse in all Middle-earth could match the stallion's speed and grace.

This set, obviously, is part of ToyBiz's deluxe "horse and rider" sets, joining Arwen with Asfaloth, Aragorn with Brego and of course, a Ringwraith.

There's already been one Gandalf the White figure in the Two Towers line, and let us just take this opportunity to point something out: if you've never read the books, then putting Gandalf in the trailers for this new movie was a pretty big spoiler. After all, all we know is we saw him fall to his death - he sacrificed himself that the others may live. And when he returns in the second, the filmmakers even went so far as to have Christopher Lee read the lines, to make audiences think that Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas were in danger when this mysterious figure appeared. But by putting him in the trailer, all that drama is gone; studios need to think these things through.

Gandalf has updated more than his color scheme since his death in the first film - while he still wears a large cloak, he's traded his robes for a stylish vest and a pair of pants. The hooded cloth cloak is removable, giving you a closer look at the detailing in the clothes beneath (which are themselves a new sculpt). His skirt/pants thing is also removable, but he had the decency to wear white breeches beneath, so you won't have to see Gandalf's wand.

Standing 6¾" tall, Gandalf is articulated at the neck (balljoint), shoulders (swivel/hinge), elbows (ditto), wrists (swivels), waist (swivel), hips (V-crotch), thighs (swivels) and knees. His knees are ratchet joints beneath rubber, allowing him to stand or ride his horse. His right wrist is balljointed, which is really great; you can give him a stoic pose, holding his staff perpendicular to the ground, or give him his sword and point it at an enemy. Nice little unmarketed feature, that. Push the button on his back, and Gandalf slashes his sword.

Gandalf's staff must have been a pain to create - it's sculpted to look just as it does in the film, which means that the tip is hollow, formed by intertwining spindles. There's no way that would pull from a mold, so it's made from several pieces glued together. Still, it looks quite good. Glamdring is the same mold we've seen with the other Gandalfs.

Shadowfax is just about 7¼" tall and 9" long (counting the tail), which makes him the same general size as the rest of the horses. He's supposed to be a bit bigger than his equine brothers (being the king of horses or somesuch), but it's no major quibble. With no saddle or reigns, the sculptors had to show all the musculature for the first time, and they did a fine job.

That "no saddle" thing means that Gandalf has an unintentional "falling off horse" action feature, since the toy can't very well hold onto its mane - his hands have a specific pose, and the mane is molded plastic. Sure, it's flexible PVC, but it's plastic nonetheless. Oh well; at least he balances well.

The horse's front legs are articulated at the shoulder, knee and fetlock, but won't stay in position if you move them yourself (due to the galloping action - press a button, and they flail wildly). The rear legs move at the stifle and hock. Horse leg joints have crazy names! There is also a ratchet joint in the middle of the horse's neck. His mane and tail hang calmly, so this set looks good next to Aragorn's similarly-flaccid ride.

This Gandalf the White is different from his individually carded counterpart, but he's a great stand-in if you can't find that seemingly rare version. Plus, he's got a great big horse, which is one cool accessory. Unless the horse is the figure, and Gandalf's the accessory. But we'll leave that up to you.

-- 12/12/02

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